. . . The atomic age blossoms
beyond the bank of backyard windows,
and here, on a regular night, at home.
—Kathleen Flenniken, Plume
The full night of rain has our bodies soaked through.
The stream gutters under the house, and the force
of water claims its path,
can even swallow a coastline.
Fears have come back circling the lawn like border dogs.
It’s been oceans since the pipe in the reactor exploded—
my father scrambled up metal ladders,
welded rivets in the running dark
and self-checked for radiation. More than once he died,
the inside light behind him spitting up red.
Already the maps dissolve
like my mother going home,
but showing up at the wrong house. I learned to get on
by myself, watching other women straightening
girls’ dresses, keeping something alive
with their voices.
Even now I weep motionless.
The water well floods, and its alarm fades
like a heart doused of its beating.
As you turn from me,
understand I cling. At the back of your neck
here is my mouth and the imploded dome of a half moon
above us ready to infect again
the air we breathe in.